Documenter: Carl M. Ambrose, Jr.
Agency holding meeting: Lake Charles City Council Meeting
Wednesday, September 21, 2022 5:30 PM Council Chambers
The City Council meeting focused on a proposal by the African American Chamber of Commerce to develop lots in North Lake Charles.
The meeting was called to order by John Ieyoub, the president of the council, on time. The other council members present included Rodney Geyen, Luvetha August, Stuart Weatherford, Ronnie Harvey, Jr., Craig Marks. Vice President Mark Eckard was not in attendance. The mayor, the city administrator, as well as the city attorneys, and Director of Planning and Development Doug Burguieres. The chambers were packed with few empty seats as well as a number of people in the halls outside the chamber.
Policies and Decisions
There was a motion to accept Minutes from the previous meeting and the special session for the budget, both approved 6-0. There were a couple of motions to defer and delete items, and a couple of demolitions on the table.
The council appointed a chairman to review bids to purchase furniture and fixtures for Mallard Golf Course. Mr. Ieyoub appointed Mr. Marks, who accepted the appointment. Mr. Ieyoub then appointed a chairman to review bids for the Project HL-14, Lake Charles Civic Center Marquee Replacement. Mr. Ieyoub appointed Ronnie Harvey, Jr., who accepted the appointment.
Public Hearings were held about ordinances ordering demolition with proof of service and Mrs. August, Mr. Harvey and Mr. Marks whose districts the houses were located, all moved for final action in 15 to 30 days on the demolitions.
The final action was taken on several ordinances, the most notable being 384-22—the ordinance authorizing the City of Lake Charles and the African American Chamber of Commerce to enter into a cooperative agreement to manage adjudicated property and develop lots to be put back into commerce. This was debated at the previous city council meeting on Sept. 9 (notes here).
Ms. JayVon Muhammad and Mark Lewis, treasurer for ACCLC, spoke first, outlining what they said were the accomplishments of the organization, under the leadership of the president, Fitzgerald Darbone, who was present. “The goal of the program is to be a catalyst for positive change in the most economically impacted areas of Lake Charles,” Ms. Muhammad said.
She also spoke about it being a pilot program that would help the local economy by increasing home ownership. Mr. Lewis spoke and advised of a change to the cooperative endeavor agreement concerning developers and development, saying, “ …they would start the process within 90 days of purchase…this reinforces one of our main points, that we don’t want this to be a buy and hold program. Mr. Geyen said it was his understanding that the whole process would be completed in 90 days, to which Mr. Lewis responded after a brief back and forth “it could be done, but in a rush type scenario.” He then said that “the key is, we want them to start the construction in 90 days of purchasing the property. Again, the goal is to have the house completed and a resident occupying that house within one year.” He went on to say that they had met with several developers with “keen interest” and are “motivated” to be a part of this.
As in the first presentation in the previou city council meeting, there were some concerns about transparency, the possible problems with obtaining loans, and if developers were willing to take the risk, and which ones would be involved.
Lewis then went on to talk about an item that he stated, “wasn’t presented last meeting”: according to him, 95% of the proceeds from selling the properties will go back “into the community,” with 5% for administrative cost. He also stated, “The purpose of this program is not for the AACC to make money.”
Councilwoman August had a problem with the wording that monies would go to private properties. Mr. Lewis addressed this saying they would use some of those dollars for adjudicated properties.
Corey Rubin, Asst. City Attorney came up to address how the properties would be distributed, noting that initially four properties would be given to start, up to a total of 20 in the pilot program, depending on the developer.
The President of the AACCLC, Mr. Fitzgerald Darbone, spoke to the council and talked about hearing councilman Geyen talking to a group of men—which included my father, Carl M. Ambrose, Sr., when he was a kid—and Mr. Geyen saying, “our kids don’t come back home.”
He said that he remembered that and that, “he came back to help the community.” Darborne spoke of his military service, which he said prepared him for this project. He asked councilman Harvey if he had invested in the community, to which Mr. Harvey acknowledged owning a home and several businesses in the community. Mr. Harvey asked Mr. Darbone if he had purchased and developed any adjudicated property. Mr. Darbone acknowledged that he had not, but owned a commercial property.
There were a couple of witnesses: Mrs. Richard spoke against, Mr. Celistine spoke for the programs, as well as, Mrs. Lois Booker Malveaux who spoke for the project. With no more discussion, Mr. Ieyoub asked for a vote. It was 3-3, and the measure failed. The applicants and their supporters left the meeting.
Other final actions saw the city declaring intent to acquire full ownership interest in 12 parcels of adjudicated Properties, authorize acceptance of lowest bids for Excess Workers Comp Ins., Authorize a settlement in the case of Melanie Bradberry and Guy Bradberry vs City of Lake Charles. It also saw the city and parish enter into a Development Agreement for construction of a new Judicial Complex. An ordinance authorizing the purchase of properties, lowering the speed limit on the Sowelas’ JB Johnston from 30 to 25.
The council voted 6-0 on an ordinance to accept the lowest bid on four storage containers for Lake Charles fire department, and another for the purchase of 49 recliners for use by the department.
An ordinance authorizing the city to have CBRE perform a feasibility study and economic impact study of a proposed conference center hotel along the lakefront, which has come up multiple times in the last 30 years.
The council voted 6-0 for several ordinances including one for accepting the best quote for the replacement of the Rosa Hart Theater stage area insulation and metal lath, and another one for the fireproofing in the Rosa Hart stage area. Both of the lowest bids for each job came from Sam East Construction for $169,000 and $246,000, respectively. The venue has been quiet for months due to Hurricane Laura damage, and many of the exterior repairs have already been done.
There were several resolutions that were adopted by consent, as well as, ordinances for introduction by consent read into the record at 9 a.m.in the city hall chambers the following day. Noteworthy were requests for an architect to be hired to consider renovations to the exterior of the CIvic Center and multiple demolitions.
The meeting adjourned after two hours.